Wayne’s World – Heartstone Financial Services

Ever dreamed of starting your own company? Wayne and Helen Clark made their dream a reality by setting up , an independent financial advisory firm based in Peterborough. One year on, Wayne talks to The Business Moment about the experience

The freedom and quality of life is absolutely wonderful. You can do what you want, how you want, with no one telling you what to do!

Wayne Clark made the brave decision to set up his own business with his wife Helen in April 2011. After 30 years of working in the financial industry he found himself lumbered with an increasing number of supervisor duties and missed interacting with clients, so decided it was time to do things his own way. The husband and wife team also seized the opportunity to create a secure future for when they decide to retire.

Wayne is convinced that he and Helen have made the right decision to forge their own path, but that’s not to say there haven’t been sacrifices. “On the downside, by starting a new business we probably halved our income for the first year, but that was something we were aware of. We set out a plan and we’re actually slightly ahead of that for the first year, which is good”

According to Wayne the key to success is good preparation, or as he puts it

It’s about knowing your stuff before you do it. It took us about six months to get everything organised, to get the business plans done, the bank accounts sorted, the website designed and so on. I would suggest you really want to get all of those things in order before you actually start. Don’t start and then try to sort these things out because you won’t have time to do any work!

With a career in advising others already fully established, Wayne certainly had an advantage in setting up the finances and legal documentation for Heartstone Financial Services, an area he highlights as particularly important.

“If you’re going to set up a new business you’ve certainly got to research the regulations, if nothing else. To be fair I knew the industry pretty much inside out as far as business goes. Having a compliance background especially helped me as I knew all the rules and requirements for our industry.”

Having a thorough grounding has helped Wayne to future-proof the business, too. “There will be lots of changes in the finance industry at the end of this year where you will have to be more highly qualified if you want to continue doing investments and pensions – although I already have those qualifications. There are also certain specialist areas of business, such as equity release and long-term care planning, that need extra qualifications but fortunately I’ve got all of those as well.”

Wayne also managed to navigate the issue of regulation with minimal expenditure, thanks to a good understanding of the options available to him. “With our business you can either be directly regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) which does have some initial costs, or you can piggy-back onto another company or network where they have already paid all of those costs. This is the way I did it, as two guys I used to work with have already got their own firm directly regulated by the FSA so I sort of piggy-back onto them.”

Aside from organising the financial element of a new business, Wayne points out that it is also vital to research your market.

Anybody can set up a business but if you haven’t got clients or customers it’s not a lot of good…

Luckily, Wayne had managed to build up a loyal customer base during his career. “There’s a certain amount of clients who have dealt with me for many years and don’t think about what company they’re dealing with, so it was natural that they would want to come with me, wherever I go. I think we started out with a base of about 70-80 clients.”

Although this sounds like an impressive starting point for a new company, Wayne admits that it’s not enough to live on and it’s important to have a strategy for attracting more business. In order to tackle this issue, he employed a targeted approach to raising the company’s profile. “What we’ve tried to do is to concentrate on being a good, local, small firm. One of the most important things is name or brand awareness. We’ve concentrated on Yaxley, a big village close to where we live. There’s a local glossy magazine which goes out to about 6,350 households so we take a page in that every month. It’s half advert, half editorial on a topic of the day, which my wife effectively writes. We’ve done that virtually every month since we started because I think if you do that people get used to seeing it when they flick through and get to know the name. We probably get about one new client a month on average so that’s pretty good.”

Other marketing tactics that Wayne has employed include registering on websites such as This works by customers searching online for advice on, for example, pension schemes, and asking for an advisor to get in touch with them. By signing up to these schemes business is then directed to Heartstone Financial Services. However, having to pay for leads isn’t ideal so Wayne tends to use this option sparingly. Heartstone Financial Services also sponsored Yaxley Football Club last year which was useful in encouraging local business, and Wayne also recently launched “Vouch For” on his website, where clients are able to leave reviews.

For Wayne, the most important part of a marketing strategy is to have focus.

You’ve got to be aware that there are going to be peaks and troughs, and obviously when you hit a trough you’ve got to stir things up and try to find more business, so it’s just about being aware

Running a small business does mean having to contend with every aspect; you become the IT department, the PR guru and the tea boy. The move from working in a large office to working with just one other person has also been a major change and one that may sound horrifying to some, but Wayne happily insists it is an ideal situation. “It’s a joy for us to work together and we bounce off each other very well. I handle the clients’ needs while my wife manages the office, books and administration. I’m not saying it would be for everybody – some people probably couldn’t do it – but it works well for us. Mind you, we’ve only been married for a couple of years!”

Working alone does not mean that Wayne is isolated; although he decided not to join any official networking groups, he actively stays in touch with other independent financial advisors, in both a professional and social environment, which has huge benefits for both the business and his clients. From a business point of view, Wayne is able to attend regular training sessions with these contacts, share tips and generally stay on top of his game. It also allows him to service his clients better.

“As I say to my clients, I’m like your GP. You go to your doctor for anything and everything, but he’ll refer you to a consultant for something specialist. I don’t profess to know everything, but I do know where to go for some extra advice, be it an accountant or a solicitor or another IFA in a specialist area. The important thing is looking after your client. For example, last week I had an offshore trust query. I’m 99.9% certain I’m right and I know what I’m doing, but if I want to run it past someone, then I can have a quick chat with someone who specialises in that area to confirm my thinking.”

So, it seems that whoever said you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure was mistaken. For Wayne and Helen Clarke, starting their own business has not only been a resounding success, but has given them the opportunity to live life the way they choose.

Heartstone Financial Services offers an independent financial planning service for investment and protection.

Visit for more information, call 01733 620209 or email:

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